Chelsea will return to Premier League action this evening as they visit Bournemouth to take on some familiar faces in Nathan Ake and Asmir Begovic.
After a difficult start to October, Chelsea have enjoyed a much better last seven days. After overcoming a deficit and defeating top-6 side Watford 4-2 at the Bridge, the Blues also managed a 2-1 victory over Everton in the fourth round of the EFL Cup, which included a first club goal for Antonio Rudiger. Both Danny Drinkwater and 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu made their first career starts for Chelsea in the EFL Cup win, adding to the positives that have come as a result of back-to-back wins.
Today’s opposition, Bournemouth, are also fresh off two solid wins. The Cherries defeated Stoke City 2-1 away in the Premier League last weekend before beating recently-relegated Middlesbrough 3-1 in their own EFL Cup match. Eddie Howe’s side currently sit at 19th in the league with 7 points though, and will need to make use of the confidence gained from recent results if they are to continue their climb out of the relegation zone.
These two teams were also drawn to play one another in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup following their wins this week, which adds a little extra to this game as each team looks to step up and set the tone for both matches.
Victor Moses is still out and the squad will have to be patient regarding his return, but Davide Zappacosta has replaced the Nigerian well at right wing-back in recent weeks. There is good news in that N’Golo Kante is progressing well following his injury with France in the last international break, however it is likely that the midfielder’s return will come against Roma in the Champions League in a few games time as opposed to this evening on the South coast. Danny Drinkwater could finally be available for a Premier League fixture following his Chelsea debut against Everton on Wednesday.
Although Chelsea are nearly at full strength, it is possible we will continue to see some squad rotation from Antonio Conte, with the Champions League match against Roma also very important following the 3-3 draw that was played about between the two sides a couple of weeks ago.
Injury-wise, Bournemouth are most worried defensively with Tyrone Mings and Brad Smith still struggling to find their way back to full strength. However, manager Eddie Howe has said that he could turn to youngster Jack Simpson who impressed in their EFL Cup match. Ryan Fraser may also be out with a knock, while striker Josh King is also doubtful after needing scans for an issue with his back and missing out on their last two wins. Jermaine Defoe also missed those victories but Howe expects the forward to be available tonight, while ex-Chelsea men Nathan Ake and Asmir Begovic are also set to play.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
Antonio Conte started off his pre-match press conference by talking about the remaining injuries, but also reassured the fans that the squad will compete as normal no matter how thin it may seem.
“Moses is out. For him we must have patience. N’Golo is still not ready. I hope to have him back for the Roma game. We also want to find new potential players like Ampadu, we are doing big work.”
Conte also urged his side to remain focused against this Bournemouth side that is better than they appear.
“We must pay great attention. This will be a really tough game against a team whose position in the table is not right.”
Eddie Howe used his time to explain that the Cherries would like to build on the confidence they’ve gained from these last two games.
“There’s been a boost in the squad, we’ve been really pleased with the last two results. We now move onto another big game here, the mood here’s very good. It’s a long season and we didn’t want to become detached, so the Stoke win was important. More importantly, it was about building confidence and getting the good feeling back in the squad, that’s been carried through this week as well.”
The Blues really should take the win here over 19th placed Bournemouth. It may be closer of a game than everyone will expect because of Bournemouth’s ability when playing at home, but I’m expecting Conte to put a team out that is more than capable of beating the Cherries and continuing the momentum that Chelsea have started to gather. 3-1 win.